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Sonya Sones [Interview below] in her own words...

What My Mother Doesn't Know
A young adult novel-in-verse that tells the story of a fourteen-and-a-half-year-old girl named Sophie, who’s having a hard time trying to figure out the difference between love and lust. Read interview.

Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy
A young adult novel-in-verse based on the true story of what happened on the eve of the author’s thirteenth birthday when her older sister, who was nineteen at the time, had a nervous breakdown and had to be hospitalized.

EMAIL Sonya Sones

To contact Sonya Sones by mail,
send a letter addressed to:

Ms. Sonya Sones
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

Author, Sonya Sones
I was born in Boston and was overprotected in the nearby town of Newton. The summer I turned seventeen, I fell in love with making animated films. Soon after, I enrolled in Hampshire College and at the same time, I began getting offers to teach animation to kids in Omaha, San Francisco, Cambridge, and last, but definitely not least, St. Croix in the U. S. Virgin Islands.

Luckily, Hampshire agreed to give me credit for my teaching jobs. And even though I was only on campus for a total of three semesters in four years, I graduated with the rest of my class, receiving a BA in film making and photography.

I taught film at Harvard University, made films for WGBH's "Zoom" show and PBS's "The Electric Company", worked as a production assistant on Woody Allen's film "Interiors" and eventually became a film editor. My favorite credit was co-editor on the cult classic "River's Edge."

Then I met this extremely cute and funny guy named Bennett, at a taping of "Mork and Mindy." I married him, had a baby, and started a hand-painted baby clothes company, working on outfits for Neiman Marcus and Macy's while my daughter snoozed.

But after a while, I got tired of trying to come up with one more sweet little bunny design, so I enrolled in a poetry class at UCLA, taught by Myra Cohn Livingston. She was the best teacher in the universe. It was Myra who set me on the path to creating my first book, Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy.

When I'm not writing, I tend roses, drive my kids around, dance, read, worry and hunt for buried treasure at flea markets.

An Interview with Sonya Sones

Q. I very much enjoyed your new novel-in-verse for young adults, “WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN’T KNOW.” It stirred up feelings from my own teen years, as well as feelings about being a mother. Do you find that your books appeal to adults as well as to teenagers?

A. When I sit down to tell a story, I’m not aware of trying to write for a particular audience. I’m just trying to tell the best story I can, and hoping that lots of people will like it and be able to recognize themselves in my characters. Fortunately, although my first two books were published as teen novels, I’ve heard from many adults who’ve enjoyed them as well. WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN’T KNOW especially seems to have struck a chord with the women who read it. They say, “Your book snapped me right back to exactly how I felt when I was fourteen years old.” It’s extremely gratifying to hear this.

Q. Sophie’s voice sounds so real. How are you able to capture that teenaged voice with such authenticity?

A. Lot’s of people talk about having an inner child. But I have an inner teen. And she’s right there with me, whispering advice in my ear, whenever I sit down to write.

Another thing that helps me, I think, is the fact that I’ve been keeping journals ever since I was old enough to not be chosen for the cheerleading squad. I’ve got boxes and boxes of them stored away in a closet. Whenever I’m trying to remember what things were like in the bad old days, I just leaf through them, and it’s all right there, every miserable moment.

Q. Both of your novels are written in poetry. Why have you chosen this form?

A. Poetry is such a visual medium, such an emotional medium, such a good way to get to the center and truth of things. The tales I’ve told so far have explored some pretty painful territory. I think telling the stories with so few words adds to their power because the people who read them are called upon to fill in the emotional blanks with their own personal experiences of pain.

Q. Your first book, STOP PRETENDING: WHAT HAPPENED WHEN MY BIG SISTER WENT CRAZY, is autobiographical. Is WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN’T KNOW autobiographical as well?

A. Unlike the poems in STOP PRETENDING, the poems in WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN’T KNOW are not autobiographical. Especially not the embarrassing ones! Although some of the poems are based on events which actually occurred. As a writer, I have the luxury of rewriting history. There are many situations, in my own life, that I blew entirely. But my characters have handled the same situations with exquisite elegance and grace.

Q. It seems that you’ve given Sophie a rather difficult set of parents. Why did you choose to do that?

A. I didn’t want to just skim across the surface of teenage life. I wanted to delve down into its deeper layers. We’re all so hugely effected by our parents. And Sophie is no exception. I think the fact that her mother is a controlling, guiltifying, depressed woman has a big impact on how Sophie views life. She’s had to learn to use her sense of humor in order to survive. And maybe she’s hungrier for love than the average girl because her father is a such a cold, distant, distracted man.

Q. The poem called "Mom and Dad Use to Be in Love," about Sophie’s parents’ failing marriage, was very powerful. How do you think situations like these effect our children and why did you think it important to include it in your book?

A. I felt it was important to include it in the book because it helped to explain what makes Sophie tick. The sad truth is that many marriages end in divorce. And these divorces wreak havoc on the delicate psyches of our teenagers. If Sophie had the benefit of therapy, she probably would find out that the reason she keeps falling for the wrong boys is because, on an unconscious level, she doesn’t really want to be involved with anyone. From what she has witnessed of her parents’ marriage, serious relationships don’t look like much fun.

Q. Aside from being an engaging story for teens, WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN’T KNOW is a terrific handbook for mothers. It’s far more powerful and substantial than just being about teen love and lust. It touches on important topics that remind us of what we, as parents, might have forgotten, those painful feelings we used to have, of inadequacy and insecurity. Do you find it difficult to write about these things?

A. Not at all. It’s easy for an inadequate and insecure person like myself.

Awards and honors for:


Optioned to be turned into a feature film by Bandeira Entertainment

Received a Christopher Award from the Christophers

Received the Claudia Lewis Award for Poetry from the Bank Street College of Education in New York City

Nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the young adult category

Received the Gradiva Award for Best Poetry Book from the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis

Received the Myra Cohn Livingston Award for Poetry from the Children's Literature Council of Southern California

Chosen an ALA 2000 Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers

Chosen an ALA 2000 Best Book for Young Adults

Included on the International Reading Association's list of Young Adults' Choices for 2001